Co-Conspirators Posted Fake Advertisements for Cars, Tricking Victims Nationwide Into Wiring More Than $4.5 Million
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging DIYORA ASHIROVA, ELVIN BAGHIR-PUR, KIRILL DEDUSEV, ROMAN ELIOZASHVILI, SARKHAN IMAMVERDIYEV, MIKHEIL INADZE, AZIZA JALOLOVA, ELVIN JAVADZADE, IGOR KALINITCHEV, a/k/a “Irvin Kalinitchev,” TENGIZ KHUKHIASHVILI, YELENA KUDAIBERGENOVA, MISHEL LEVINSKI, STANISLAV LISITSKIY, a/k/a “Giedrius Girnius,” ALEKSEI LIVADNYI, DURRA MEHDIYEVA, MIKHAIL MOROZOV, IELYZAVETA NAZINA, GOCHA PAPOSHVILI, MATISS PUKE, KETEVAN SEPIASHVILI, ALEKSANDR STARIKOV, IGOR STASOVSKIY, NIKOLAY TUPIKIN, KARLIS VITOLS, and MELVUT YAZICI with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering. Eleven of the defendants were arrested on these charges today in New York. These defendants will be presented and arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge James L. Cott in Manhattan federal court. BAGHIR-PUR was arrested in Miami this morning and will be there presented there later today. KHUKIASHVILI is in custody on state charges in Alachua County, Florida, and PUKE and VITOLS are in custody on state charges in Charlevoix County, Michigan. All three will be transferred to federal custody. DEDUSEV, ELIOZASHVILI, KUDAIBERGENOVA, LISITSKIY, LIVADNYI, MOROZOV, STARIKOV, and TUPIKIN remain at large. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge George B. Daniels.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As alleged, the defendants participated in a nationwide scheme to defraud, duping victims who responded to fake internet advertisements designed to resemble advertisements posted by legitimate merchants. Then the defendants allegedly created dozens of shell companies to receive victim payments and withdrew the funds and sent them out of the country. Thanks to the hard work of the FBI, these defendants will now face prosecution.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Trusting that they were conducting legitimate business with automotive dealers, these victims lost over $4 million as a result of this scheme. While allegedly operating under this façade, the defendants were diligent in the theft of the funds, but showed no regard to the financial impact on the victims. As shown by the charges brought today, the FBI will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to uncover duplicitous conspiracies, regardless of the vast intricacy of their cover-ups.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment and statements made during court proceedings in this matter:
From November 2016 through July 2018, the defendants carried out a wide-ranging fraudulent scheme that typically involved impersonating legitimate sellers of cars, tricking victims into providing payment for those cars, withdrawing the funds from banks around the country using efforts designed to evade scrutiny, and wiring the proceeds outside the United States.
The fraud most commonly operated as follows: first, co-conspirators impersonated automotive dealers and collectors and claimed to be selling classic cars on various well-known internet auction and trading websites. Victims responding to the ads were in fact corresponding with a fraud scheme participant. After the victims and co-conspirators came to terms on a sale price, including down payment and shipping costs, victims were next directed to purported automotive transportation companies and were told that these companies would accept payment and transport the cars. These companies were in fact shell corporations established by the conspiracy to help perpetrate the fraud, whose corporate bank accounts were established and controlled by the defendants, awaiting wired funds from the fraud’s victims. After victims had wired payment, the defendants went to the banks to drain the victim’s funds, often starting the same day payment had been transmitted. The defendants would draw money from different bank branches in numerous withdrawals on the same day, in denominations that were varied and often kept to an amount they believed would prevent the financial institutions from recording and reporting the fraud. The co-conspirators then sent the fraud proceeds outside the United States to Eastern European countries, from where many of the conspirators originated. Victims never received the goods they believed they had purchased, and many were unable to recover their money or were left paying loans for cars that were never truly for sale. The defendants’ scheme defrauded victims of more than $4.5 million.
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Each of the defendants is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge. The table below lists the name, age, nationality, and residence of each defendant.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI.
If you believe you were a victim of this crime, including a victim entitled to restitution, and you wish to provide information to law enforcement and/or receive notice of future developments in the case or additional information, please contact the Victim/Witness Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, at (866) 874-8900. For additional information, go to: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nys/victimwitness.html.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey C. Coffman, Thane Rehn, and Matthew J.C. Hellman are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
|PUKE||31||Latvia||Delray Beach, FL|
|VITOLS||29||Latvia||Delray Beach, FL|